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What Training for a Bikini Competition Taught Me About Losing Weight and Body Love

Whether you think you can or you think you can't you're right.' Henry Ford I wanted to make 2016 really count. With my youngest child going off to school, this was my year to do something completely different.

Whether you think you can or you think you can't you're right.' Henry Ford

I wanted to make 2016 really count. With my youngest child going off to school, this was my year to do something completely different. I wanted to get myself out of my comfort zone, face new challenges and test myself to see what I was capable of. I lost 20lbs in 2015 and that was because I made small incremental changes to my diet and exercise programme and was still allowing myself what I consider a good number of treats. I felt ready for an up-level.

I was drawn to the idea of the bikini contest from the perspective of seeing what my mind and body could do if I truly adopted the belief that 'anything is possible'. Now I know your reality is only a reflection of where you are now and that's why I refuse to settle for my current circumstances, if I know they can be improved. Standing in my underwear with my post-Christmas bulge didn't exactly feel that empowered and I was under no illusion that I had work to do. I also knew I couldn't do it alone and that I would have to get a trainer, which would mean I would have to declare my goal out loud. This wasn't a problem, but in stating the goal it kind of was a test to some extent, of whether or not this would be the start of a harmonious partnership. I knew by her response that she was for me, largely because she didn't laugh and she didn't try and send me to Zumba.

I'm now 4 weeks away from my competition and although I realise a lot can be achieved in this time, I have come to accept that I won't be what the fitness industry term 'comp ready'. This is fine, I didn't do it to win (on the stage anyway). I wanted to see what my body and mind working together were capable of and hear is what I have come to notice. As someone who lost over 20lbs last year, I never want to go back to how I felt before. When I lost the weight it was under the premise that I kept it off, because running around with my kids and feeling confident on the beach meant more to me than all the unhealthy habits I had overcome. Weight-loss to me had to fit in with my lifestyle and the key word for me was sustainable.

I was under no illusion that training for a bikini competition and eating super clean would not be what I would call sustainable. It just isn't and I haven't been as strict as I could have been, because frankly I have other stuff to do which is important to me and takes energy, like being with my family. What I have grown to love is cooking really good, nutritious meals and snacks which make you feel amazing. My cravings for junk food have genuinely disappeared (for the most part) and my mind is no longer preoccupied thinking about when I'll be 'allowed' my next 'treat' and what that will be.

I have come to appreciate my body more and more. I have realised that there is no such thing as the 'perfect' body. Even as you develop and tone, there are always parts of you that you could try and improve work towards getting stronger and leaner. That is great, if it's what you love doing and I think now moving forward I will always weight train. I love it. It has made such a difference to how I feel inside, in terms of helping me to realise that I can make gradual improvements and for me a strong body has given me a strong mind. I can concentrate for longer, be more productive and am a better problem solver. It's not all because I work out, but it's like a domino effect, you feel genuinely physically tired (like when you were a little kid and used to 'play out'), you sleep better, you start to eat better and make better choices and before you know it you are leading a totally different life to the person you were six months previous.

In terms of losing weight, so far I haven't lost any weight as in form of a number on a scale. During the first 8 weeks, I gained weight in the form of muscle and now as I work hard to lean down, I am becoming more and more aware of how unsustainable the 'diet' really is. What I will keep is the organic, plant based foods, which I have been eating to help fill me up and make my food really tasty. This part I have been finding really fun and I love the way eating these foods really makes you feel so good.

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